It can be terrifying to find out you have high blood pressure. It’s scary because it really reinforces how short life is and how the one thing that is more important than anything else is: health.
Let’s say your doctor has diagnosed you with high blood pressure. Now what?
Well, if you’re like a lot of people, you started talking about medication options and treatments with your doctor. But what if you want to bring your blood pressure down without having to take medication?
The truth is – your lifestyle plays a more important role in your blood pressure than you think. If you want to avoid medication, try changing your lifestyle instead.
So with that in mind – here are 10 lifestyle changes that can help bring your blood pressure down and keep it normal:
1. Focus On Losing Weight
There’s a pretty common rule – if your blood pressure goes up, your weight is going to go up. Plus, obesity has been linked to sleep apnea and other sleeping disorders, which can cause your blood pressure to go up further (1).
Research has shown that losing weight is one of the best things you can do for your blood pressure – and if you’re very overweight, the more you lose the better off you are.
Plus, carrying weight in your midsection in the form of visceral fat and belly fat is also bad for your body – and your blood pressure. If your weight measurement is more than 35 inches, you’re at risk.
2. Get Regular Exercise
Want to lower your blood pressure by 4 to 9 mm Hg (milligrams mercury)? Of course you do.
The answer how is pretty simple – get more exercise. Try being active 30 minutes out of the day for 4 or 5 days a week and get your heart beating faster.
Exercise can help prevent pre-hypertension from developing into hypertension, and it can also bring your blood pressure down and relieve hypertension if you’re suffering from it(2).
Try adding some exercise to your routine, like walking, cycling, dancing, swimming, or jogging. Weight training is also great if you want to bring your blood pressure down.
3. Eat Healthier
Like most everything connected with your body – the results are all about what you eat. If you add more whole grains, fruits, dairy, and veggies to your diet, you can significantly lower your blood pressure.
If you find it difficult to stick to a diet, there are a number of options to help, like keeping a food diary or only keeping healthy food in your house.
If you want a specific nutrient to lower your blood pressure, try eating more potassium. It will help lessen salt’s effect on your blood pressure, which will improve your blood pressure overall (3).
4. Cut Out The Sodium
If you’re looking for a food that’s the #1 culprit for high blood pressure, look no further than sodium.
Even cutting sodium by a small amount can reduce your blood pressure significantly. Try keeping your sodium consumption under 2,300 milligrams per day.
If you’re especially sensitive to salt, try keeping it under 1,500 milligrams a day. If you’re 51 or older, diagnosed with high blood pressure, chronic kidney disease, or you’re African American, you might have sodium sensitivity.
If you’re trying to cut down on sodium, the best thing you can do is actually read your food labels. Try avoiding processed food, and if you’re making your own food, don’t heavily season it with salt. Finally – don’t try to cut salt out all at once, do it gradually over time to have a better chance of this dietary change sticking.
5. Cut Down On Alcohol
ok – so this is kind of a mixed bag. Alcohol can actually be good for your blood pressure – in small amounts it’ll lower it by 2 to 4 mm Hg.
However – if you drink more than a little – defined as more than 1 drink a day for women, you actually wind up hurting your blood pressure, not helping it. Plus, alcohol has been shown to reduce the effectiveness of many blood pressure medications.
6. Stop Smoking. Immediately.
If you’re not a smoker – skip this step, you’re good.
If you are a smoker, it’s absolutely destroying your blood pressure. Every cigarette you smoke raises your blood pressure, and keeps it high for a while afterwards. Cut down on smoking and you’ll cut down on your blood pressure (and raise your life expectancy considerably).
7. Drink Less Caffeine
This one is finicky – some people’s blood pressure is heavily affected by caffeine, while others feel little to no effect from caffeine. It’s enough to raise your blood pressure by 10 mm Hg if you’re sensitive – so definitely find out which camp you’re in.
The best way to find out is to take your blood pressure, then drink a caffeinated beverage, then check your blood pressure again 30 minutes later. If it went up 5 to 10 mm Hg, cutting down on caffeine can really help to lower your blood pressure.
8. Work On Stress
The link between stress and high blood pressure has a large and robust amount of science behind it. If you feel stressed a lot of the time, there’s a good chance it’s raising your blood pressure.
Take a little bit and figure out what in your life is really stressing you out. You can’t help solve the problem if you don’t know what the problem is – so try to really find the source of your stress and see if you can reduce its impact on your life.
If you can’t cut it out of your life, there are other ways to manage it. Try making time for yourself in the day to relax and do something you like to do. Even 20 minutes of meditation or relaxation can have a huge effect on stress. Another great way to cut down on stress is to stop worrying about things outside your control, and focusing on only the things you can control.